As a physician, you've spent years, in some cases decades, studying, training, and honing your skills to help people. You've spent years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, in school, internships, residency, and advanced training to get to the top of your field. That's why it can be a stunning blow if someone alleges misconduct against you. Even if a complaint is unfounded, it can harm your professional and personal reputation.
The state medical board must investigate all complaints against osteopathic physicians, and you have a duty to cooperate. But that doesn't mean that you can't ensure you have the best possible defense no matter where you are in the U.S. With such high stakes, it's important that you have someone protecting your rights during an investigation and disciplinary action, like attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Professional Licensing Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm. They can help you in all 50 states.
Triggers for Board Investigations
A medical board oversees all physicians' education, licensing, and training requirements in each state. Because of the high level of trust we place in physicians with our health and confidential information, physicians also must meet high levels of professional and ethical conduct set by these medical boards. Your state medical board will also investigate complaints against an osteopathic physician or surgeon.
Complaints to the medical board can come from patients, co-workers, clinics, and hospitals.
Some common complaints that can lead to a medical board investigation can include:
- Allegations of patient neglect or abuse, including physical and verbal abuse and gross neglect, particularly neglect or abuse that leads to an injury or illness,
- Allegations of sexual abuse or misconduct, including sexual harassment or assault,
- Allegations that you have inappropriately prescribed medication, including over-prescribing controlled narcotics, failing to do due diligence before issuing a prescription, negligently prescribing the wrong medication or dosage, or administering medication outside the scope of your license,
- Criminal arrests or convictions, particularly those involving drug or alcohol offenses or felonies,
- Failing to report an arrest or conviction to the medical board,
- Allegations of fraud, insurance fraud, or theft, including upcoding, billing for unperformed services, and falsifying patient records for higher insurance reimbursement,
- Allegations of substance or alcohol abuse, and
- Allegations of inadequate record keeping, including negligent mistakes and altering patient records.
Medical Board Investigation and Disciplinary Process
Every state medical board will have specific rules and procedures for their investigation and disciplinary process, and attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Professional Licensing Defense team can help nationwide. However, most follow a typical pattern involving a formal complaint, board investigation, hearing, consent decree, and appeal.
- Complaint: When someone formally complains that you have violated your professional or ethical responsibilities as a physician, the medical board will first review the complaint. They may notify you that the board received a complaint at this stage.
- Investigation: The board will then review the complaint to see if the events as alleged warrant further investigation. The board may dismiss the complaint if the allegations aren't a violation. If they don't dismiss the complaint, the board may ask you for a written response, additional information, or documents.
- Inquiry: If the board still has questions after your response and submission of documents, they may ask you to appear in person at an inquiry. At the inquiry, they will ask you follow-up questions about the allegations, your records, and the events that led to the complaint.
- Consent Order: After the inquiry and investigation, if the board believes that your actions warrant a professional reprimand or other disciplinary action, they will first attempt to negotiate a consent decree with you and your lawyer. A consent decree may offer you the chance to resolve the dispute privately; however, you may disagree with the board's decision.
- Hearing: If you disagree with the consent order, the board may file a formal complaint against you with the state and proceed to a formal hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). The ALJ can hear from witnesses and review documents before rendering a decision. If the ALJ finds against you, they will also order disciplinary action, including suspension or revocation of your license.
- Appeal: After the ALJ decision, you will have a short period to appeal to a court. However, the court will only review the ALJ decision for errors of fact or law; they will not rehear the entire care.
It's important to understand that a medical board investigating allegations against you will not use “beyond a reasonable doubt” as their standard of proof. Rather, most state boards will use the “clear and convincing evidence” standard, meaning they believe it is highly probable the allegations are true. This is a lower standard of proof than in a criminal trial.
Potential Penalties from Medical Board Discipline
The range of possible disciplinary actions resulting from a medical board is wide. Still, for serious allegations, you can face serious consequences that can damage and potentially end your career as an osteopathic physician or surgeon. The most serious outcome is the permanent loss of your medical license and your inability to practice as a physician. Other possible punishments can include:
- Suspension of your license for a set period, or subject to meeting certain requirements and review of the board for reinstatement,
- Restrictions placed on your license, such as your ability to perform surgery, prescribe certain medications, or practice without supervision,
- Monitoring and probation to ensure you are qualified and professional,
- Imposition of conditions for keeping your license, such as mental health treatment or alcohol or substance abuse counseling and treatment,
- Requiring continuing medical education, sexual harassment, or implicit bias training, or
- Issuing a public or private reprimand.
Why You Need the Lento Team
You do have an obligation to cooperate with a medical board investigation, but you should also ensure someone is protecting your rights. While it can be tempting to assume that you can easily clear up an allegation against you by simply telling your side of the story, that may not always be true. An adverse finding against you by the medical board can harm your career and professional reputation. Moreover, a board investigator can use what you tell them against you in a hearing or finding. That's why it's best to consult the experienced Lento Licensing Defense Team before you speak to a board investigator.
How We Can Help You
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the skilled Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can help you through the investigation, hearing, consent decree, and appeals process, protecting your rights at every step of the process, no matter where you live. Call them today at 888-535-3686, or contact them online to schedule your consultation.